In a blatant violation of international humanitarian law, self-declared authorities in the separatist-controlled Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine have ordered 10 of 11 international humanitarian aid organizations to cease operations and leave the area within two days after the notification.
Included among these are a number of United Nations aid agencies, as well as non-governmental humanitarian organizations such as France’s Doctors Without Borders, Czech Republic's People in Need, and the International Rescue Committee. Only the International Red Cross will be allowed to resume work, but only after signing an agreement dictated by the separatists.
In the wake of Russia’s move to illegally annex Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, Russian-backed separatists staged an uprising in eastern Ukraine, and for the past 17 months, have been fighting Ukrainian government forces attempting to dislodge them from the Donbas. As a result, some 8,000 people have since been killed, and well over 2 million have been displaced, about 1.4 million of them internally.
According to the United Nations, as many as 5 million Ukrainians are in need of assistance today, particularly now as winter approaches. But as a result of last month’s ban, some 3 million of them will not receive the supplies and services they need. A delivery of 16,000 tons of humanitarian assistance is being blocked from those in need. This means that 150,000 people will have to do without their monthly food allotments, while some 30,000 will wait in vain for shelter materials and household items they urgently need. 1.3 million are at risk of losing access to potable water. There will be no essential medicines such as insulin and tuberculosis vaccines, no anesthesia to perform life-saving surgery.
“The United States calls on the Russia-backed separatists to take immediate steps to improve the lives of the very people they claim to care about most, by allowing humanitarian organizations unrestricted access and facilitating the provision of desperately needed assistance now to all those who are suffering,” said State Department Spokesperson John Kirby in a written statement.
Russia and the separatists it backs must fulfill their obligations under the Minsk Agreements, and allow unimpeded access to all areas of Ukraine by international humanitarian organizations.